Of course that’s a bit of humor in the headline up there, but this result is just about as good as a win: Real Salt Lake went down to Monterrey and scored not one but two away goals, the second of which came in the 89th minute through a moment of brilliance from Javier Morales.
The Argentine playmaker’s strike put the teams on level terms in the total-goals series as they head to the second leg at Rio Tinto Stadium, where Real Salt Lake is unbeaten in its last 37 games.
The visitors started out brightly, possessing the ball and taking it to Monterrey for the first 15 minutes. The first goal was somewhat against the run of play, and Nat Borchers‘ excellent equalizer was well deserved for RSL.
In the second half, either because of fatigue—it was 90+ degrees—or a tactical decision to sit back and play for a draw (or both), Real Salt Lake were on their heels for most of the time. They absorbed a lot of pressure and had trouble maintaining any kind of possession. The penalty call may have been iffy, but a goal for the Mexican champions at that point was not surprising or against the grain of the game.
But Real Salt Lake hung in, absorbed more pressure, and remained standing, with a puncher’s chance of scoring a draw in the closing minutes. That’s when Morales, picking up a ball from late sub Arturo Alvarez, worked his magic.
The only downside of the incredible night was captain Kyle Beckerman getting an undeserved yellow that will keep him out of the second leg.
Here’s Morales in Sports Illustrated this week, talking about RSL’s style:
“We have a style that I would call mixed between American and Latin, a new style. We work very hard in the American way, and we have a Latin game where we try to take care of the ball.”
He hit the nail on the head, and that style is embodied in the central midfield pairing of the skillful Latin Morales and the athletic, hard-working American Beckerman.
They’ll miss their captain next week, for sure, but with their depth and the fantastic support at Rio Tinto, Real Salt Lake is still very much in the driver’s seat, ready to make history.